‘The long and winding road that leads to your door,’ Paul McCartney sang with such endearing tones that seem to pull me down that road each time I hear the song. It feels like he reaches in and wraps his fingers around the longing places of my heart and recognizes the urge, the search, the angst and the belief.
Just 6 days ago now my aunt, my godmother and my friend passed away. She went where she was longing to go in her own words, ‘home.’ Just 15 hours before that passing moment, with a quick knapsack of loosely collected clothes and my work thrown into my I headed to be with her, to see her and to support her.
But she knew…she knew that I knew…that she didn’t have to wait for me physically to get there if she didn’t want to. And I knew…I knew that she knew…that if she wanted to wait she could. Whatever she chose was what we both desired.
It was a long and winding drive home to a home that would no longer have her there. All along the way I could hear her voice, her sweet, funny voice speaking into my ear, ‘Hi honey,’ she would always answer her phone….pouring the sweetness into my ear.
Part of me wanted to get there quickly and part of me wanted to slow time. Slow time down but time waits not. The drive felt like my trusty car and I were suspended in air, straddling the realms that she was straddling.
For 17 years now, phone calls were the way we spent our chats. Soaking up the chance to talk again and again after years of my silence in the monastery. We found home in the airwaves, it was a home where anything could be shared, nothing was off limits or improper or wrong.
It seemed to me we offered each other a gift so rare in this world, unconditional acceptance.
It was a rare oasis in a world oftentimes still ruled by harshness and unspoken rules.
Yes, we could be imperfect, bumbling, flawed, and unhinged right alongside being insightful, compassionate, chatty, silly and sometimes a bit raunchy. Rubbing elbows, divinity with humanity.
It seems such a penetrating word right now, washing through my heart. For she was a home for so many, strangers and family sat at the table with her and found home. She discovered, or maybe she just arrived this way as a baby, that home is here and home is not here. She lived it.
And now she has taken me with her in some mysterious way and I have kept her here in some mysterious way. True connection is timeless, but we can only know this by experiencing it directly. It is our journey, with all its twists and turns, that begs to be the place of revelation.
The audible sound of her voice will give way to the essence of our deep faith driven connection. Gratitude and grief will pave a new path.
I remember years back we were on the phone and she told me this joke.
A 90 year old woman called 911, her husband had just had a heart attack. When they medics starting asking her what preceded the attack. ‘Well,’ she said, ‘every morning at 11am we make love to the steady rhythm of the church bells,’ she points out the window. And if that damn ice cream truck hadn’t come down this street I bet he would be here today!’
Not long after Joyce visited me in Washington D.C. where I was attending seminary. While the visit was mostly for fun, it also had a purpose. One time on the phone she confided that for years now she hadn’t been receiving communion because she had never received an annulment. I knew her longing and how painful it must have been to go without one of her greatest happinesses for so very long. It was a bit complicated, divorce, remarriage and all the ins and outs of not being able to have everyone participate in the paperwork needed.
She didn’t know there were other options! So I had arranged for one of my professors, a pastor and priest, to work privately with her. She didn’t know there were other options. So they met, all morning.
Joyce came out the door so light, so changed. She had closure in one of her most important relationships, her church. Where did we take off to celebrate? To the Immaculate Conception Basilica where we attended the Liturgy and she received Eucharist for the first time in years. It was pure bliss.
Wow, she danced in the fullness of being human. Her jokes could be edgy and her faith could be pure and never was there a contradiction. And I will miss her. We will miss her.
Joyce, my sweet friend, I cannot tell you how happy I am for you that you are where you have longed to be for some time now. Home.
May we know, know, KNOW we are home here as we move towards home as this soul witnessed with such grace. May we have the courage to wrestle with our doubts and uncertainties. May we express our honest feelings even when it is scary. May we shine. Shine, knowing our world needs this light and this Light is that in which we live and move and have our being. May we share that gift with all we meet. May we laugh more. For life is so far behind what we could possibly understand or master. May we conduct ourselves with reverence during this sojourn with trust and surrender.
May we, may you, may I return home.